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City Council to consider extension for New Hill plan, hold budget hearing

Charlottesville City Council will consider extending the deadline for a vision of the future of the Starr Hill neighborhood.

The council will consider a resolution to push the deadline for the city staff to work with New Hill Development Corp. on the plan during its meeting Monday.

New Hill was created in 2018 as a community initiative to spur investment in the Starr Hill area and Vinegar Hill, a historically African American neighborhood that was razed by the city in the 1960s.

The Starr Hill neighborhood is 47.7 acres and home to about 235 people. Its population has increased by 37% since 2010, a quicker rate than other areas of the city.

The plan focuses on an area bounded by Preston Avenue to the north, Ridge/McIntire to the east, the CSX railroad to the south and the Norfolk Southern railroad to the west.

In November 2018, the previous iteration of the council voted, without a public hearing, to give the corporation $500,000 to create a small area plan and community vision for the Starr Hill neighborhood.

The 80-page plan was presented in November 2019 and focuses much of Starr Hill’s future on redeveloping City Yard, adding housing and enhancing the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center.

The proposal was sent to the Planning Commission, which required a public hearing within 120 days.

However, according to a staff report, New Hill and city officials worked together to “develop the most beneficial outcome” and came to a “mutual agreement” to pursue a vision plan instead of a small area plan.

The report says that a vision plan is not as intensely focused on land use as is a small area plan. A vision plan would provide a set of principles to guide decision-making, but would not provide “the detailed examination of zoning and land use planning contained in small area plans.”

The resolution asks that the city adopt a new resolution requiring that the Planning Commission hold a public hearing no later than Aug. 31.

The commission was scheduled to hold a work session in January to discuss the plan, but it was canceled.

A large portion of the proposal focuses on City Yard, a roughly 10-acre public works lot off Preston Avenue near downtown.

The plan calls for the city to vacate the property and for a massive redevelopment to ensue.

The plan calls for a revamped property that could hold 685,000 square feet of commercial and residential space, plus 132,000 square feet of parking. It proposes 82 to 255 townhouses and apartments affordable to those who make 50% to 80% of the city’s median income, which the plan states is about $50,000.

The property would include rooftop venues for restaurants and entertainment. The plan also stretches outward and calls for a reworking of the Brown’s Cleaners, CenturyLink and Wendy’s properties to create higher density.

According to the plan, construction on the massive redevelopment could support 790 jobs and bring $38.4 million of investment. The finalized property could support 615 jobs and $32.5 million of investment.

Another tenet of the proposal is improvements to the Jefferson School to “amplify” its presence as an African American cultural hub, increasing its number of tenants and events.

It proposes a redesign of the school’s public park, surrounding art installations and an outdoor amphitheater. Under the redesign, the school’s parking deck would be expanded by two levels and 105 spaces.

Sprinkled throughout the plan are pedestrian improvements to emphasize connectivity between neighborhoods; the improvement of Starr Hill Park with new landscaping, benches and playgrounds; and installation of pocket parks throughout the neighborhood.

The extension resolution is part of the council’s consent agenda.

Budget hearing

In other business, the council is scheduled to hold its first public hearing on the real estate tax rate and proposed budget for fiscal 2021, which starts July 1.

City Manager Tarron Richardson has proposed a $196.6 million budget for fiscal year 2021, which starts July 1, plus a $35.3 million Capital Improvement Program.

He also is proposing $111 million in other dedicated funds, such as those for retirement, debt service, equipment replacement and facility repairs.

The spending plan is a $7.7 million, or 4.11%, increase over the fiscal 2020 budget.

The proposed budget has been contentious because it recommends about $1.8 million less than the school division has requested and doesn’t provide any additional firefighters, although the department requested 12 positions to help staff ambulances.

Although the city advertised a public hearing on a 2-cent increase in the real estate tax rate, the council has indicated it doesn’t support a higher rate. The levy would remain at 95 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Most property owners will see their tax bills increase, however, as the latest assessments were up an average of 7.2%.

Employees are slated to receive a 2% cost-of-living increase, which will cost about $1.04 million.

The budget allocates $197,000 for an Office of Equity and Inclusion and includes $150,000 in start-up costs for the Police Civilian Review Board.

The proposed $127.9 million Capital Improvement Program, which covers five years, includes $35.3 million for fiscal 2021. The council approves a five-year capital spending plan plan each year, but only dedicates funding for one year at a time. Further years are included as projections.

Some highlights in the capital spending proposal are $4.9 million for the first part of the city’s commitment to construct a parking garage under an agreement with Albemarle County to keep county courts downtown.

The 300-space garage would be built on a lot at Seventh and Market streets at a total cost of $10 million.

Another expenditure is $5 million for a local match to construct a new Belmont Bridge. The city plans to seek construction proposals in the fall.

The City Council meets at 6:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 605 E. Main St. A second public hearing on the budget is scheduled for April 6, with final approval planned for April 14.

Due to concerns about the coronavirus, the city on Friday announced that, with the exception of Monday’s City Council meeting, it has canceled all of its public meetings of boards and commissions for the foreseeable future.

Officials are discouraging the public from attending Monday’s meeting in-person, instead offering alternative means of participation.

More information on the alternative methods of participation will be shared Monday afternoon on the city’s website, charlottesville.org, and social media platforms.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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